10/12/2016 11:24 EDT

Death Cap Mushrooms, Amanita Phalloides, Growing Around Victoria

VICTORIA — A Victoria resident who ate a wild mushroom he picked in the city's downtown has become seriously ill, prompting the Island Health authority to issue a warning for others to be extra cautious.

The authority's chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said Tuesday the person has been transferred from an intensive care unit in Victoria to a hospital in Alberta.

The male's family has not released his name or age but wants others to know they too could be poisoned from eating the fungus called Amanita phalloides, also known as death cap mushrooms, he said.

"The family is saying, 'Please get the message out, be very, very careful.'"

death cap mushrooms amanita phalloidesA cluster of death cap mushrooms. (Photo: Getty Images)

Stanwick said the male and a companion were picking mushrooms on Oct. 3 when he ate one, adding he would have suffered stomach pains and vomiting within eight to 12 hours.

"Then about three to five days later the toxins that you've ingested attack the liver and one goes into liver failure.''

The male ended up in hospital four days later suffering from liver damage, he said.

Stanwick said that on Sunday, he and a mycologist, an expert on fungi, went to the site where the mushrooms were picked and dug up whatever mushrooms they could find so no one else could eat them. The samples were sent to a lab for testing.

16 mushrooms collected, enough to kill 12 people

"It had the classic green cap, it had the veil underneath and then it's got a very bulbous base but you don't know that until you actually dig out the whole mushroom,'' he said of the death cap.

"The ingestion of one mushroom contains... enough toxins that it will kill an individual."

Stanwick said they found about 16 mushrooms.

"The specimens we harvested, probably there was enough mushrooms there to kill 12 people. That's why we needed to mitigate the problem first hand on Sunday afternoon.''

Subtle differences between toxic and non-toxic mushrooms

About 90 per cent of poisonings are associated with the phalloides species, he said, adding that the differences between toxic and non-toxic mushrooms can be subtle.

"The experts have said unless you put them under a microscope you can't tell which ones are going to make you sick and which ones are going to enhance your salad.''

Stanwick said it's important for people to learn about what types of mushrooms are edible before they eat any they find in either an urban or forested area.

"The ingestion of one mushroom contains... enough toxins that it will kill an individual."

In September, the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Vancouver Mycological Society also warned recreational mushroom hunters to be cautious.

The warning followed a doubling in calls to the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre in July compared with other years as well as the seasonal appearance of death cap mushrooms, which the groups said are increasingly popping up in Vancouver and other regions around the province.

The centre for disease control said death caps are believed to have been introduced to B.C. in the roots of imported hardwood trees planted in the 1960s and 70s.

It said the fungus lives in the roots of trees for 40 to 50 years before emerging.